Handheld and laptop users in the US could soon be looking at high-speed access to the internet.
Intel, IBM, AT&T Wireless and several other wireless and telecoms companies, including Verizon and Cingular, are considering building a wireless data network across the US.
The Project Rainbow plan anticipates setting up a company to deploy a network based on the 802.11 wireless data standard, known as Wi-Fi.
The discussions envisage a service that would provide on-the-go professionals and other web surfers with a unified way to reach the internet from a range of hot spots, such as airports and other public places. The service would be charged by the hour or by the day.
Intel, quoted as a leading force in the project, has said that it will bring the wireless data standard to 20 million portable computers in 2003 and an additional 40 million portable and desktop computers the following year.
IBM would reportedly be involved in establishing the actual wireless access points and developing the technology to link the network together nationwide.
Part of the challenge is that 802.11 networks were not originally intended for use in the way that Project Rainbow discussions now imagine.
The technology was conceived as a replacement for wired Ethernet office networks over ranges of several hundred feet.
While the talks have been going on for the past eight months, the companies will take several more months to decide whether there is a workable business model for the plan.
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